Problems caused by will writing companies

Dr John Steadman, archivist of Portsmouth History Centre based at Portsmouth Central Library     Picture:  Malcolm Wells

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Each week former trading standards officer Richard Thomson answers your questions.

Q A couple of years ago we were approached in a supermarket by a will writing company. They charged us almost £1,500 for two wills and another £1,000 for storage. We’ve recently received a letter from them advising us to make amendments to our wills as the law has changed. They propose to charge us £75 for each will plus VAT. I’m not very happy about this and would like your advice please.

GJ (e-mail)

A After looking through the paperwork they sent you, I wouldn’t be too happy either.

You didn’t send copies of the original wills so I’m unable to say whether the latest demand is to correct previous errors, or to update them in line with a change in your circumstances.

You confirmed it wasn’t the latter, so I assumed it must have been a legitimate update driven by change in legislation, although it was a stretch of the imagination as to what it could be.

The paperwork they sent you was no help either. It didn’t specify exactly what changes they felt were needed or why, so out of curiosity I rang them for you in an effort to find out.

This led to an uncomfortable and evasive exchange, the gist of which was your complaint was little more than making a mountain out of a molehill. Before I could press them further, our conversation was terminated by the simple expedient of their ‘consultant’ putting down the phone.

Not being one to take no for an answer, I called again. This time I was told it was a matter between them and you, their client, and they wouldn’t speak to me about it again even if they had your written permission – presumably in triplicate.

Now given my territory, I’m inclined in the ways of cynicism. I can’t put my concerns, for that is all they are, into print.

All I am prepared to say is that given the circumstances, and the degree of evasion, you might care to write back to them and ask precisely what changes they propose to make to your wills, and why.

Q I switched my phone and broadband from Talk Talk to Virgin about nine months ago. Out of the blue I received a letter from Talk Talk saying I owed them £83 for unpaid charges, and if I didn’t pay up within seven days they’d set the debt collectors on me. At the time I followed their termination procedure to the letter and they confirmed my account was clear. I’m at the end of my tether. Can you help please?

CV (email)

A When I contacted Talk Talk, they huffed and puffed but couldn’t actually justify how they had arrived at the conclusion you owed them any money. I pointed out that unless they had proof, the demand to pay up by their collection agency amounted to little more than highway robbery.

Although following my intervention they’ve called off the debt collectors and retracted the demand for the £83, they weren’t disposed to offer you any compensation for the distress they had caused you.

SMALL PRINT

Richard Thomson is a former trading standards officer with many years experience. If you have a question, e-mail him at richardjthomson1@sky.com and wherever possible he will try to provide practical assistance. Unfortunately he cannot guarantee to respond to every letter or e-mail. Richard Thomson welcomes letters from readers on consumer issues. Replies are intended to give general help or advice, not a complete statement of law.